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California Plumbing License: Everything You Need to Know

Plumbing is a profession requiring skill and knowledge. It also involved problem solving for issues quickly. Most plumbers start their careers working for a company or setting up their own plumbing business. In this guide, you’ll learn how to get a California plumbing license, apprenticeships, and industry resources.

What Plumbing Work Can Be Done Without a License?

To work as a plumber in California, you need to be registered as a Journeyman. 

What are the Different Types of Plumbing Licenses Available in California?

The path towards becoming a licensed plumbing contractor in California begins with an apprenticeship. Apprenticeship programs throughout the state include a combination of classroom work at a technical school and hands-on experience. Throughout the apprenticeship program, you will take exams about plumbing systems and repair.

Most plumbing trade school programs can be completed after two years. Then, you can work as an apprentice for another two to four years and apply to become a Journeyman plumber. You will only be able to work on projects that are less than $500.

After four years working as a Journeyman plumber, you can apply for your own contractor’s license. This type of California plumbing license will allow you to accept jobs more than $500.

The average pay for a plumber in California is just over $26.00 an hour. A typical plumber in the state can make about $55,000 a year. You can expect to work as a plumber up until your retirement age. 

How To Get A Plumbing License

There’s a three-step approach towards achieving your California plumbing license: working as an apprentice, becoming a Journeyman, and then applying to be a contractor. After completing four years as a registered Journeyman, you can apply for your contractor’s license.

Every applicant for a contractor’s license in California must get a criminal background check. The Contractors State License Board will review each applicant on a case-by-case basis. Typically, a criminal background won’t preclude you from getting your license unless it is a serious offense within the last seven years of applying for your licence and the offense relates to the field of work.

Most plumbing schools in California offer a two-year program of class work and on- the-job training. The cost of the programs can range anywhere from $1,000 to $3,000. Here are some of the best plumbing schools in California:

  • Bakersfield College

  • Central County Occupational College

  • Central County ROP

  • City College of San Francisco

  • College of San Mateo

  • East Los Angeles Occupational Center

  • Harbor Occupational Center

  • Institute for Business & Technology

  • LA Trade & Technical College

  • Modesto Junior College

  • National Institute of Technology

  • North Orange County ROP

  • PHCC Vocational School

  • San Diego City College

In plumbing school, you will be taught the basics of the daily plumbing operations. You’ll learn how to repair leaky pipes and install boilers, furnaces, hot water tanks, sewer lines, sprinkler systems and water well systems. You also will learn how to read blueprints and select the right tools for each repair.

Every trade school or community college offers financial aid options. Some courses are available online. You need a high school diploma or GED to enroll.

As an apprentice plumber, you will work alongside professional plumbers to learn all the required skills of the profession. You can expect to work five to six days a week. 

After completing your four years as a Journeyman, you can apply for a California Contractor’s license, a C-36 classification. The process begins with the contractor’s license application.

Along with the application, you will submit any documentation to support your previous work experience, such as copies of W-2 forms, certifications from your apprenticeship program, and a diploma from your trade school.

Your former employer will need to fill out the work certification program to verify your experience. There’s also a $480 fee. Then, you must schedule a business and law exam through the CSLB website. After passing the exam, you will go before a CSLB proctor for final review.

The last step is to  demonstrate that you have working capital of at least $2,500. You will need to file a surety bond of up to $10,000. With good credit, you will pay anywhere between $100 and $250 a year for the bond.

Should I Join a Union?

UA Local 342 is one of the many unions in California. The organization offers a training program for plumbers. After successful completion of the program, you will receive a guaranteed salary on union contract jobs. Those jobs also come with pension and health benefits. 

Insurance for Plumbers in California

You will need public liability insurance as a plumber. This insurance will provide coverage for any property damage or injury. 

Often plumbing work requires crawling into tight spaces and being exposed to hazardous fumes. That’s why, protective gear is recommended on all jobs. You also should get any immunization shots recommended by your doctor.

How to Get My First Plumbing Apprenticeship

Your trade school will most likely provide resources for applying to an apprenticeship program. Those programs give you the opportunity to work with plumbing contractor or business. During interviews, dress casual but appropriate. Bring copies of your resume and school transcript.

Does My License Work in Any Other State?

Your California contractor’s license will only be applicable within the state.

What Resources are Available in the Plumbing Industry?

You should stay on top of the trends and innovations. It also helps to follow plumbing blogs.

Throughout the year, various plumbing trade shows are held across the state. You can explore plumbing specialties, too.

I Already Have a License But:

To make address or name changes, you can contact the CSLB website.

How Often Do I Need to Renew My Plumbing License in California?

You will need to renew your contractor’s license in California every two years. The renewal fee is $400. 


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